- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2003

HONOLULU (Reuters) — One sister called it a miracle, and another said she finally had found closure after the body of their brother, a sailor killed at Pearl Harbor 62 years ago, was identified.

Thelma Blanton and her sister, Flora Mae Young, were told the news Monday in Mrs. Young’s Leavenworth, Kan., home by U.S. Navy officials.

In telephone interviews, the two sisters said they sat speechless as the officials explained how the remains of Fireman 2nd Class Payton L. Vanderpool Jr. had been located, disinterred and positively identified as their brother, who died on December 7, 1941.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Vanderpool is the second “unknown” Pearl Harbor casualty ever identified.

Afterward, Mrs. Blanton, 76, called the news “unreal” again and again. She was in high school when she last saw the brother everyone called “P.L.”

“I just can’t imagine this happening in my lifetime,” said Mrs. Blanton, who lives in Kansas City, Kan. “I am still in awe of it all. It is just a miracle to me.”

Mrs. Young, 81, said that before Monday, she never truly understood what grieving families meant when they spoke of closure. Now, she knows.

“I hadn’t felt that until today,” she said, after the Navy briefing ended. “I’d say that is how we all feel.”

Petty Officer 2nd Class Vanderpool will be buried in the family plot in Braymer, Mo., beside his parents, and his marker will list the date and time of his death, December 7, 1941, at 1 p.m.

Military officials disinterred Petty Officer 2nd Class Vanderpool’s remains in June from the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu after an 82-year-old survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Ray Emory, convinced them that he had gathered enough documents to prove who was in grave Q-179.

That evidence — combined with dental records, a photograph of Petty Officer 2nd Class Vanderpool, historical data and the sailor’s physical description — led to the identification, Navy Capt. John Lewis Jr., a forensic odontologist at the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, said in a telephone interview.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Vanderpool was 22 and assigned to the USS Pennsylvania, which was in dry dock during the attack. Records show he was sitting on the pier when the bombs began to fall, said Mr. Emory, who lives in Honolulu.

Mr. Emory, who serves as the national historian for the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, said Petty Officer 2nd Class Vanderpool’s personnel file stated that he was conscious when an ambulance took him away.

That was the last time anyone saw the sailor from Lawson, Mo.


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